Flying through the treetops

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Adventurous traveler on a skybike gliding through the misty treetops at Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador's cloud forest sanctuary.

The Treetops: The Adventure of Flying Through the Canopy

The treetops, which together form the forest’s roof or canopy, have always fascinated biologists, ecologists and all lovers of nature, and are so far the last frontier for exploration in tropical forests. Being able to access the treetops has been a privilege reserved for monkeys and birds only. However, nineteenth-century explorers already dreamed of reaching the forest’s roof, it was not until 1929 when the first observation platform was built in a tropical forest. Unfortunately, no data was published, but this initiated the exploration of the forest’s canopy. In the 50s the first observation tower is built out of steel in a forest of Uganda, this allowed us to have an idea of ​​the relationship between the forest floor and the treetop for the first time. But the big discovery occurs in the 70s when a group of intrepid biologists adapted their knowledge of rock climbing and handling ropes to reach the treetops. A decade later, in the 80s, the first bridges between trees that allowed researchers to move through the woods and better understand the interactions that occur at this site (Lowman, 1999) are built.

In 1982, Terry Erwin climbed a Guácimo tree in a tropical forest and sprayed insecticide to collect falling insects. He discovered around 1200 species of beetles in just one tree. Based on this, the estimated diversity of insects in tropical forests is approximately thirty million species, much higher than the previously believed three million species.

This finding completely changed the way we see the diversity of tropical forests and made the investigators focus on the forest’s canopy. It is now known that about 70% of the diversity of a tropical forest live in the treetops and that is why today we have devised a number of mechanisms to access the canopy, ranging from hot air balloons to mechanical cranes.

In Mashpi our Observation Tower and Sky Bike give the opportunity for our visitors to feel like these modern explorers are reaching places that only birds could fly to, providing a unique view and the ability to travel through treetops. From the Sky Bike, we can see trees full of mosses, bromeliads, orchids, and other epiphytes. We can hear birds chirping or simply admire the scenery; on the other hand, the Observation Tower allows us to move up from the forest floor to the top of the tree and appreciating each level that forms the structure of the forest.


the treetops
Pedal Above the Canopy
Tourists observing a yellow land iguana in its natural habitat at Finch Bay, Galapagos, included in Mashpi package tours.
Our Premier Ecuador Experience: The Golden Triangle
A Complete Experience that brings you the very best of Ecuador and The Galapagos Islands. With a stint in the Heart of Quito, The Mashpi Reserve, and a stay at The Galapagos Islands most lauded Hotel, Finch Bay.


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